Police / Fire

Fire breaks out at San Juan Elementary School

Staff was evacuated safely. No students were on campus at the time of the fire.
Fire at San Juan Elementary. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Fire at San Juan Elementary. Photo by Robert Eliason.

A fire broke out at San Juan Elementary School in San Juan Bautista. The fire was reported at 3:17 p.m. on Oct.10 and located in the maintenance area directly behind the school.

According to witnesses on the scene, the fire was preceded by a popping sound that they assumed to be a transformer shorting out.

The Sheriff’s Department and the Hollister Fire Department could not confirm the cause of the fire.

Students were not on campus at the time of the fire, Aromas-San Juan Unified School District Superintendent Michele Huntoon told BenitoLink. Only teachers and staff were still present. She added the school was evacuated without incident and a check of the premises was made to be sure everyone had left.

“We owe thanks to the staff, the sheriffs, and the fire department for their quick responses,” Huntoon said. “It is never something we want to deal with but it could have been a lot worse. When something like this happens and it comes out as well as it did, I have to think we are blessed.”

Fire trucks used an access road to reach the back of the school, where the fire had spread to a dry creek bed and through the trees. Black smoke appeared to pour out of what was identified as a maintenance area, as can be seen on video taken at the scene.

Highway 156 was closed at the Alameda, with traffic rerouted around Mission Farm RV park due to smoke and downed power lines, according to Caltrans.

There was no immediate sign of damage to the school buildings. Huntoon said that an assessment of conditions would be made by the morning to ascertain whether students could return without delay.

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.